Injury-hit Broncos bounce back to beat Warriors
The injury-hit Brisbane Broncos have broken the New Zealand Warriors' five-game winning streak with Saturday's hard-fought 27-18 victory at Mt Smart Stadium.
After two straight losses, the Broncos dug deep to claim their third win of the season, a feat that was even more impressive considering they lost Origin back-rower Matt Gillett and halfback Kodi Nikorima to injuries last week.
Outstanding performances from Corey Oates and Jack Bird – starting in the halves – proved too much for the Warriors as they were forced to chase the game from the start.
The Broncos jumped out to an early lead just five minutes in when Oates chopped back inside from 20 metres out and sliced through the Warriors' defence, a desperate legs tackle from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck not enough to stop the big man from stretching out and scoring under the posts.
That seemed to wake the New Zealanders up.
Off the back of a penalty, the hosts marched downfield and were able to force a repeat set off the boot of Blake Green.
Three plays later and the Warriors had their response – a perfect cut-out pass form Shaun Johnson sending the NRL's leading try-scorer David Fusitu'a across untouched.
Match: Warriors vs Broncos
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
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Johnson's conversion from the eastern touchline was successful and the scores were level at 6-6 after just 10 minutes.
Green forced another goal-line dropout moments later and after defending back-to-back sets, the Broncos eventually gave away another penalty under the posts, Johnson kicking his side two points clear at 8-6.
A penalty moments later the other way gave Broncos winger Jamayne Isaako the chance to level the scores and his kick was a good one to lock things up at 8-8 after 20 minutes of play.
Isaako didn't have to wait long to be back in the action, in for a try just minutes later, the blistering James Roberts breaking through the Warriors defence on halfway and finding his winger in the corner to silence the Mt Smart faithful.
The 21-year-old was unable to convert his own try, however another penalty in the Warriors' red-zone moments later saw Isaako add two more and Brisbane took a 14-8 lead.
The Warriors weren't done with however and it was Green again who stepped up for the home side.
With five left in the first half Green grubbered one into the goal post padding, the deflection bouncing away from Darius Boyd and the Warriors' five-eighth was one hand to score his side's second.
Johnson's conversion was successful and the scores were locked up at 14-14.
A field goal from Anthony Milford in the final minutes of the half edged Brisbane in front 15-14 at the break.
The Warriors would be forced to play the remaining 40 minutes with 16 men, losing Leivaha Pulu to a left ankle injury.
The visitors started the second half the same way the ended the first and it only took four minutes before they were back on the board.
Bird, looking more and more comfortable at five-eighth, danced across field and laid on a short ball for Jaydn Su'A to crash over.
The following 10 minutes were an arm-wrestle, Brisbane enjoying a 90 per cent completion rate.
With just 15 minutes remaining, Isaako was on the end of a perfect shift to the right and a spectacular finish saw him cross for his second – and convert from out wide to push the lead to 27-14.
Johnson took it upon himself to lead a fightback and the former golden boot winner was able to step through the defence and score with eight minutes remaining.
His conversion went wide and the home side trailed 27-18.
And that's where things would say, Brisbane claiming the two points with an impressive away win.
Adding insult to injury, the Warriors also lost centre Solomone Kata to an leg injury in the late stages.